India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence

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India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence

India and Pakistan are marking 70 years of independence this month. India celebrates Independence Day on August 15th, Pakistan, on the 14th. It is a great milestone for both these countries. And while many are proud of it – for others, it is a painful reminder of the horrors of partition which created both these countries.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence
The Colonies

From the 18th century all the way up to 1947, there was just one India. A massive country that stretched from Afghanistan in the west to Burma, now called Myanmar in the east. The British ruled all of it. Infact, the British had several colonies around the world. India was just one of them.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence
Freedom Fighters

By the 1940’s, many British colonies had started agitating. They wanted British rule to end. In India, calls for independence were growing louder by the day. Freedom fighters such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah led the charge.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence
The Idea of Separate States

While Gandhi favoured non violence, sadly, communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims spiraled out of control. Jinnah thought it would be a good idea to have a separate state for India’s Muslim minority.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence
Quit India

Finally, the British gave in and decided to quit India. In early 1947, Britain selected Lord Mountbatten, a naval officer to oversee the handover of power from Britain to India.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence
Hindu and Muslim States

However, when India became independent, India also got sliced into 2 countries: India, where the Hindu majority would live and Pakistan, a new state, would be mostly for Muslims.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence

At midnight, August 14, 1947, India became an independent country and Pakistan was born. On this day, Nehru, made a famous speech. He said, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India, Jinnah became the first head of Pakistan.

Partition
India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence

People rushed across the border between India and Pakistan. Hindus and Sikhs who lived in the area that is now Pakistan crossed the border to come east to India. Muslims fled westward, to go and live in Pakistan. They went with little or no warning and had no time to pack their belongings.

India and Pakistan: 70 years of Independence

Millions of people migrated to a new location this way. They were looted and attacked on the way. Trains were burned. Atleast a million people died in these horrible attacks. That is why partition remains a painful memory for those who lived through it, or for those who lost family members during it.

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This article was written by Mallika Kapur, a journalist and a mom!

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